Richard Sanchez joined Los Angeles County as an app developer nearly 40 years ago. After serving in a variety of management positions, he was named CIO of the nation’s most populous county in 2008.
Sanchez says one of his first challenges was coaxing 34 very large and very independent departments to collaborate among themselves and with the central IT department. Launching a concerted effort to improve communication with departmental CIOs, Sanchez gradually won their trust, which led to the deployment of a series of enterprise services.
It was a good couple of years that we worked with these departments. Having been with the county for a number of years gave me an edge, because I knew a lot of the people in the CIO positions. But we had to let them know that we wanted to work with them.
We established a framework for sharing information with each other and identifying some of the pitfalls they were dealing with. We listened to their issues and attempted to address them before we ever implemented a system. That built trust and greater communications and gave us a better ability to work together as an organization.
Now we have a CIO Council that meets regularly to develop strategies for moving forward. Every departmental CIO is a member. We get their input and ensure that no one gets hurt in the effort.
We’ve developed a central infrastructure for a lot of systems that departments ordinarily would want to build on their own. Some examples are business intelligence, GIS and our own cloud service.
One of the big things we’ll be looking at is how we deal with our data. Just our sheer size and magnitude requires that we do a much better job of collaboration. We also need to be able to share our data with our constituents — so open data is important.
We’ll also be looking at analytics. I think our business executives want that kind of a breakthrough. They want to be able to do something predictive, as well as spot where we might have fraud and where we might be able to save the county some money.
Part of the issue is that a lot of the data we have has been around for a long time. So the validity of that data is always suspect. We have to go through a major cleaning process to make sure that the data we have is indeed good data.
Within the past few years, vendors have come up with some really good tools that we didn’t have in the past. But building the skill set so our folks can do something with that data is critical. I don’t think we’re 100 percent there yet, but we see the writing on the wall. We need data scientists within county organizations to take a look at this data and see how we do better analysis with it.
Steve Towns is the former editor of Government Technology, and former executive editor for e.Republic Inc., publisher of GOVERNING, Government Technology, Public CIO and Emergency Management magazines. He has more than 20 years of writing and editing experience at newspapers and magazines, including more than 15 years of covering technology in the state and local government market. Steve now serves as the Deputy Chief Content Officer for e.Republic.